Every Heart a Doorway: Wayward Children Book 1

Image from Goodreads. Click for Source.

Sometimes a book is gifted to you and it turns out to be exactly what you needed. I ended up with a copy of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire after a Christmas party with friends. My old roommate, Ella, bought it for me after reading it in her YA for Adults book club. I had never heard of it before, but now I’m obsessed with the series.

You know those old folktales where children go missing in the forest and are taken by faeries only to return a little different? Well that’s sort of what’s happening. Doors to different realms open up like they do for the children in Narnia and take children to a variety of magical lands. These lands are perfectly suited for the child’s need. They may be highly logical or full of nonsense. Your door could take you to a candy fairyland or to an underworld where you dance with skeletons. Simply put, each realm is a true home for the children that disappear.

The problem comes if and when the children reappear in “reality.” No one believes their stories of what happened. Parents see them as having had a mental breakdown due to some sort of kidnapping or the harsh reality of having had to live on the streets after a run away. They find their child changed, and they don’t approve.

“Their love wanted to fix her, and they refused to see that she wasn’t broken.”

The children, on the other hand, have just left a world perfectly suited to their identity only to return to a world that wants them to conform. It’s a rough transition. Most desperately want to go back, but doors rarely open again. It happens, but no often.

In order to assist with the transition, Eleanor West, who spent much time in a nonsense world as a child, opened up a Home for Wayward Children. To the general public it’s a boarding school for children with mental difficulties. In reality, the students who live and learn there have all traveled through one of these doorways. Together they work on processing their experiences and navigating the transition back to reality.

There really is just so much I love about this book, so lets take a look:

Diverse Characters

The protagonist is asexual! Holy shit! As an ace-identifying woman, I loved seeing that. They handled it/explained it really well in my opinion. The most attractive guy at the school is also transgender. Whoop Whoop! I loved how for some of the students that was a total non-issue, but others were nasty about it. The reactions of the students felt very grounded in reality.

Love any kind of minority showing up. As far as racial minorities go, it didn’t seem like as big of a focus as sexuality diversity. If any character was explicitly defined as any sort of racial identity, I don’t remember it.

Healthy View of Sexuality

So when Nancy is explaining that she is asexual to her roommate, her roommate just casually asks if it’s still chill that she masturbates. It’s a hilarious scene. But it also happens to be the first time I’ve read a scene with women discussing their own masturbation practices. I think that’s great because a lot of young people, girls especially, are taught to feel shame about this healthy expression of sexuality. It’s totally normal and treated as such.

“Huh…Well, okay. Is it going to bother you if I masturbate?”

“What, right now?”

“Um, ew…No, I meant in general. Like, late at night, when the lights are low and the moon-mantas are spreading their wings across the sky and a girl’s fingers might get the urge to go plowing in the fields.”

Feminist Soundbites

While the school is co-ed, most of the students are girls. The explanation of that will blow you away. People notice when boys go missing. Girls are easier to let go.

“We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.”

I wouldn’t say the overall goal of this book is to be some sort of YA feminist manifesto. Rather, feminism is interwoven into the prose. I love it. There are tons of little quotes like that underlined in my copy.

“She was a story, not an epilogue.”

This book is one of those instances where I really wish it had been longer. It’s pretty short, coming in at 173 pages. I read it in one sitting on Christmas day. In all honesty, I would have loved even more world building and character development. It’s not that McGuire didn’t do a fantastic job of it, I was just so enamored with what she created that I didn’t want to leave the world that came alive in these pages.

Once the world and characters are established,  the plot really picks up. Suddenly, the new girl’s roommate is brutally murdered. No one can figure it out. Then another student dies. Nancy, having gone to an underworld realm and being the new student, is quickly seen as a suspect by her peers, though the headmistress knows she didn’t do it as her world has a high respect for the dead. As I drew closer, I couldn’t figure out how it was going to wrap up with so few pages left. Thankfully the plot gave me closure despite the brevity of the book itself.

There are currently two other books out in the series with more likely to follow. As I understand it, they are connected but not direct sequels with the plot of the first novel progressing in the others. New characters and everything. I’m very excited to dig into those.

Advertisements Share this:
Like this:Like Loading... Related